Meet Dunedin's new mayor, a 35-year-old hitch-hiking vegetarian

He’s a 35-year-old vegetarian with a learner driver licence, who hitch-hikes to work - and he’s about to become Dunedin’s newest mayor.

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Aaron Hawkins is not your typical civic leader. Source: 1 NEWS

Aaron Hawkins, who beat Lee Vandervis for the mayoralty in last week's local body elections, will be a familiar face for many in Dunedin, especially those in the nearby settlement of Port Chalmers.

That’s because each morning you’ll spot him on the side of the road with his thumb out, asking for a lift to work.

The mayor elect says there’s three groups of people who choose to give him a ride.

“Friends and neighbours… then there are people who have no idea who you are… then thirdly, there’s people with a list and they’ve got you for 15 minutes and they’re going to work through their list and give unfiltered feedback from people in your community,” he jokes.

Hawkins says he’s never driven a car and if he’s not hitch-hiking, you’ll usually see him riding the bus.

No surprises, he’s hoping to make changes to Dunedin’s public transport in the near future.

“We need to make alternatives to driving more attractive. That means having a more efficient, more affordable public transport system… ultimately that should be free.”

Hawkins, who’s also a member of the Green Party, says tackling climate change is also a pressing issue for council.

“The reason that we’ve got to where we’ve got is because we’ve got thousands of young people in the street, literally outside our office, demanding we do better.”

He will be sworn in on Friday